Julian: The Light in the Darkness

Many years before, a man was made deputy of Western Rome on behalf of the Emperor. When the man first arrived to his newly appointed office a woman cried out “This is the man who will restore the temples of the Gods!” [1]

The man was in shock, for he was not a Galilean as his uncle Constantine the Apostate or his mother Basilina were. For this man was Julian, a Hellene. For now he was in the closet, but even though he did not know it yet, he would one day animate the woman’s word.

Now just over half a decade later, Julian received the news he wanted to hear. He swiftly begun to draft a letter to his friend Maximus of Ephesus who introduced him to the very Gods that his family abandoned decades ago.

“I worship the Gods openly and the whole mass of the troops who are returning with me worship the Gods.” penned the new Augustus, “I sacrifice oxen in public. I have offered many great public sacrifices to the Gods as thanks offerings. The Gods command me to restore Their worship in the utmost purity and I obey Them, yes and with a good will” [2].

Julian sat down his writing utensil, his hands trembling in excitement. He looked to the heavens and the Gods gave him a warm smile. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship in a storm, they led Julian on the right path and landed him on the purple. The civil war that erupted across the Empire had ended just as fast as it had begun, a bloodless conflict. Julian’s cousin, the now-deceased Emperor Constantius II who had ruled arbitrarily, the very man who years ago murdered Julian’s own father and brother, was dead, having received Thanatos’ cold embrace in a fever far away from any battlefield. Julian, the Caesar of the West, was now recognized as ruler of the East. Julian was now the sole ruler of Rome.

No longer did he have to shave. No, now he was newly bearded, with all the grace of youth. No longer did he attend a mass to listen to the sermons of a bishop. No, now he publicly embraced the message of Heracles, the begotten son of the sun. No longer did he scribe for someone else’s church. No, now he wrote for his Gods, his philosophy and his temples. In his heartfelt gratitude to the Gods who he felt love for like the family he never had, Julian legalized temples to be built again and public sacrifice to be performed once again. Hellenism was to be made the state religion of Rome again, and with the utmost piety.

Julian entered the capital city of where he was born on December 11, 361 ACE through its Golden Gate as sole Augustus of the Roman Empire. The atmosphere was dreamy and energetic. He could hear the cries of joy coming from his people, who appeared en masse to cheer their new Emperor on.

Temples were constructed and great rituals were performed. He reformed the faith and devoutly organized it. He wrote great literature and sang hymns of praise to the Gods. He both refurbished the Oracle of Delphi and even begun helping the Jewish people rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. For this is the man who was going to restore the temples of the Gods.

But his time was cut short. After a failed campaign against an aggressive Persia at his country’s borders, he was mortally wounded on June 26th and laid semi-conscious in bed for three days [3]. He was to die too young to fix the world before it would stop making sense. The light in the darkness was to fade.

An Oracle came before the semi-conscious Emperor who laid in bed. “A fiery chariot whirled among storm-clouds shall carry you to Olympus; loosed from the wretched suffering of men” spoke the wise priest, “You shall attain your Father’s halls of heavenly light, whence you have fallen and come into the body of a mortal man” [4].

It was June 28th that he was too greeted by a now-somber Thanatos. Serapis came before the dying Emperor and freed Julian from his corporeal bonds. The gentle God lifted Julian’s soul towards the Islands of the Blest; Elysium-bound, through a divine ray of light towards henosis. Helios, the King of All, hugged Julian with warm embrace.

 

“Whom the Gods love die young.”

-Menander

 

Notes

  1. Ammianus, 15.8.22
  2. Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 25
  3. Philostorgius, 7.15
  4. Smith 1995, 113
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Paganism: It’s not about “Rusticity”

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Some people will try to co-opt the word Pagan and try to define it as being “Nature-Centric,” ostensibly using academia to prove the word “Paganism” has always meant “nature-centric spirituality” via etymology. Not only do these people ignore how their contemporary understanding of “nature” is itself embroiled in Romanticist-era reactionism to urbanization and Protestant overculture, but they hold a profound misunderstanding on the word’s etymology in the context that they’re trying to use it in. And to correctly understand the Latin word’s usage, we must look to the Greek language.

In the Greek New Testament, the Pagan peoples, those ascribing to pre-Christian religions, are called ta ethnē, “the nations” (Luke 24:47, Matthew 25:32, Matthew 28:19). As such, religions of “the nations” were deemed ethnikos, as pertaining to a nation, in opposition to katholikos, “catholic” or “universal,” like Christianity. In English translations of the New Testament, the word ethnē often gets translated as “Gentiles.”

But in the Latin West, the term Paganus was coined in the religious sense by Christians in Late Antiquity. The term paganus, coming from Latin pagus, “district,” also relates to the idea of nationhood. This word continued in the French word pays, meaning “a nation” or “country.”

The “rustic” angle has been overworked by contemporary Pagans who want to justify the notion of paganisms as “earth religion.” The Latin Paganus is the equivalent of the Greek ethnikos. The argument that Christians were calling pagans “rustic” doesn’t make sense because Christians never placed much value in classical education nor on “civilization,” which were worldly and sinful. Early Christians often warned about the vanity of worldly learning, the dangers of reading too many books, etc. After all, the lives of the saints are all about people turning their back on civilization to live simply. “Rustic” is hardly an insult which fits into that worldview, and examples of it are seen plainly in Tertullian, the “father of Latin Christianity,” who wrote that “heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy,” and that “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instructions come from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.” Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief” (Tertullian The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 7).

At most, the word “Pagan” may have been used in the sense of what modern evangelists call the “unreached,” i.e., people who supposedly haven’t even heard the gospel because they are “so removed from society” or “out of touch.” However, it was more likely used to mean people who refuse the “universal faith” and stick to their particular “ethnic” Gods. The “cosmopolitan” in Late Antiquity, even if not in a certain sense, was likely to have been a “Hellene,” i.e., somebody with a classical “pagan” education.

Overall, we can conclude that the usage behind Paganus wasn’t about “rusticity,” but rather reflected the ethnikos and katholikos opposition: a multiplicity of “particularistic” faiths as opposed to the one universal “catholic” faith.

 

(Special thanks to my friend Edward Butler)

 

Bibliography

“Pagan.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed April 30, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan.

Tertullian. Hanover College History Department. Accessed April 30, 2018. https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/344tert.html.

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The True Olympos: Where the Gods Reside

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In Hellenism, Olympos is the radiant royal palace where the Gods dwell— a fortified hilltop with golden halls which lies just under the peaks of Mount Olympos— under the dominion of King Zeus. Because of misinformation and sophistry, many people are left ignorant and come to believe that the Mount Olympos that is said to be the home of the Gods is the same physical one in Greece which separates Macedonia from Thessaly. And while Olympos is indeed the abode of the Living Immortals, it is not the one in Greece on whose peak the ancients built altars on, knowing full well that it could therefore not be the literal abode of the Gods. This Olympos was just one of at least nineteen other peaks in the ancient world also called Olympos, from other parts of mainland Greece to further off Asia Minor, and all the way to islands like Cyprus and colonies in the far west. Hence it’s easy to infer that the Olympos in southern Macedonia merely was named after the real one due to its awe-inspiring height which towered over the world.

The reality of Olympos’ has already been uttered by the divine Homer, who in the Odyssey describes that Olympos is “never shaken by the wind, or wet with rain or blanketed by snow; A cloudless sky is spread above the mountain, white radiance all around” (Homer Odyssey, VI, 40) (Philostratus the Elder Imagines, 1. 26). This would not only exclude every mountain on earth, but it would also rule out every landmass too. Therefore, according to the divine Homer, while the Gods rule over our cosmos and all things inhabiting them, their abode isn’t a place in our mundane realm. (Aldridge 2016)

The Gods rain down their blessings upon this world and our lives in a plethora of ways constantly (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, III 399) (Aldridge 2016) yet are without needs, being in no way dependent on neither it nor us (Flavius Claudius Iulianus III, 309) (Sallustius, XV) (Aldridge 2016). If you fire an arrow at a storm cloud, you’re not going to hit King Zeus because Zeus isn’t the skies or clouds. If you whip a cup of wine at a wall, you’re not going to hurt Lord Dionysos because Dionysos isn’t wine. If you declare war on Lord Poseidon and proceed to stab at water with a sword and collect seashells, you’re not going to strike the earth shaker because Poseidon isn’t water (Sallustius, IV) (Aldridge 2016). These things may be dedicated to the Gods, and they may hold domain over and exercise their Activities through them, but the Gods are incorporeal and are in no way bounded to nor enslaved by them (Aldridge 2016) (Sallustius, IV) (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, I.17, 65-67) (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, V.23, 267) (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.3, 313).

Hence, we are lead into the true question: where is the real Olympos? To understand this, we can look to Homer again, who also said that King Helios bathes this celestial place with His radiant and benevolent light, (Homer Odyssey, XII, 380) which shines upon and perfects the Gods’ Ousia, or Being (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, III 372-373). In fact, the word Olympos itself derives from the primary verb λαμπο, “lampo,” meaning “to shine.”

There is only one place we know of where there are no winds, rains, snows nor clouds, but where the all-ruling sun is still present, bestowing radiance upon the Gods to perfect them, and this place is far beyond our mundane realm. It’s given notice by Agamemnon in his prayer to Zeus: “Zeus, most glorious, supreme, that dwells in the sky [aether], and rides upon the storm-cloud” (Homer Iliad, II, 412 ff).

Aether, the fifth element that is connected to the dodecahedron, is written by Plato to be what “God [Zeus-Helios, the Demiurge] used in the delineation of the universe” (Plato Timaeus, 55c). In short, the Demiurge used this element for binding the whole together and arranging the heavens. And that’s just where Olympos sits: the heavens.

And while we as mortals may never step into the golden halls of Olympos, the benevolent Gods will always be there, and they will know where this world, and the things in it, lie. For from their seats in Olympos the Gods can direct their divine gaze— which is more powerful than any light— towards us, even as far as our hidden thoughts.

 

Bibliography

Aldridge, Chris. “Where Is Olympus? The Greatest Mysteries.” Chris Aldridge’s Blog and Website. December 01, 2016. Accessed April 21, 2018. http://www.caldridge.net/2016/12/where-is-olympus-greatest-mysteries.html

Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The works of emperor Julian. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.

Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Emily Wilson. New York, NY: W. W. Nortion & Company, 2018.

Iamblichus. De Mysteriis. Translated by Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon and Jackson P. Hershbell. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

Philostratus the Elder, Philostratus the Younger, and Callistratus. Imagines. Translated by Arthur Fairbanks. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1979.

Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. The Complete Works of Plato. United States?: Akasha Pub., 2008.

Sallustius, “On the Gods and the Cosmos”, 4th Century ACE, accessed May 17, 2017, http://www.platonic-philosophy.org/files/Sallustius%20-%20On%20the%20Gods%20(Taylor).pdf

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Paganism is not “Nature-Centric”

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The definition of Paganism is often misconstrued as “nature-centric spirituality,” and correspondent to the term “Earth religion.” In truth, the concept of “nature worship” is by large recently-manufactured, being the product of the heavily Christian-entrenched Romantic period and the nature-centric movements which developed out of it; the same movements which also sprang out contemporary Druidism in the 19th century (Nicholas Roe 2010, 26), which, suffice to say, isn’t anything similar to the ancient Druids of Antiquity. This idea, which is so ingrained in contemporary conceptions of “nature worship,” had not existed in ancient Pagan religions, and is often perpetuated by typically the least academically-minded types of apparent “Pagans” whose practice is much more identifiable as New Age than anything. There are plenty of Pagan religions– including ones where there are divinities holding jurisdiction over the forces of nature– which aren’t concerned with the worship of nature, it often being seen as a hostile force as frequently as a beneficial one (Hrafnblod 2018, 23:56:58). Vulcanus may be a God of fire and its fertilizing aspects, but His cultus often centers around protecting the home from the ravages of flames (Plutarch, 47). To simply define Paganism as “nature-centric” is, ultimately, a misconception.

This isn’t to claim that Pagan traditions don’t have ceremonies or calendars which center around nature or natural cycles in some form. However, most religions do this to some extent. An agrarian society is going to have ceremonies centered around the fertility of the land; however, that doesn’t mean that they’re “earth-based,” no more so than any other religion is. While Kemeticists celebrate the flooding of the Nile River, for a long time Coptic Christianity celebrated this event as well (Febe Armanios 2015, 78). And while many Pagan religions observe holidays based around the cycles of the moon (e.g., Hellenism determining when to celebrate Hekate’s Deipnon), the religions of Islam, Judaism, and some sects of Christianity also do this to observe their holidays (James Shneer 2016, 4-5). Yet, these religions are undoubtedly not seen as Pagan religions.

Often this application of vague “nature-centric” spirituality to Paganism will lead people will assume that Pantheism, the belief that the divine is identical to the material universe (William Mander 2016), fits into the movement. This is problematic because the pantheistic conception of the divine is functionally identical to atheism, with the divine merely being “the passive manifestation of [material] reality” (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34) rather than an entity with a distinct agency (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34). This lack of agency obviously means it does nothing to inform any religious devotion, and because of that you cannot engage in do ut des with it. And while plenty of Pagan traditions do recognize the cosmos as something that’s divine in its essence, they also hold that other Gods and Greater Kinds exist seperately either externally from it or internally in it, thus aligning closer to Panentheism rather than Pantheism (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34) (John Culp 2017).

Pagans do not seek the mediation of the Gods to worship nature because nature is not the objective of Pagan traditions. The unmistakable focus of Paganism is the worship of Pagan Gods who hold a distinct agency. Because of this it’s wiser to categorize Paganism using Michael York’s book Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion: an umbrella term for many different contemporary religions that are either inspired by (e.g., Wicca or Druidism) or revivalisms of (as in reconstructionist polytheism, e.g., Heathenry, Kemeticism, Hellenism, etc) the ancient cultures in the European-Mediterranean-Near East cultural basin that were displaced by Abrahamic religions (Michael York 2005).

Defining contemporary Paganism this way serves a purpose of distinction, allowing Paganism to be separated from the largely Protestant imperialist use of the term and distance Pagans from the appropriative New Age movement, in preference for religious expression that is more logical and consistent.

 

(Special thanks to Hrafnblod for inspiring this article)

 

Bibliography

Armanios, Febe. Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Culp, John. “Panentheism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. June 03, 2017. Accessed March 06, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/panentheism/.

Dragicevich, Peter, Etain OCarroll, and Helena Smith. Lonely Planet Wales. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2014.

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 26, 2018 (23:56:58 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018, https://www.reddit.com/r/pagan/comments/802rrb/interested_but_unsure/duvo8cr/

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 27, 2018 (13:07:34 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018, https://www.reddit.com/r/pagan/comments/802rrb/interested_but_unsure/duwj1tu/

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 27, 2018 (11:43:22 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018, https://www.reddit.com/r/pagan/comments/802rrb/interested_but_unsure/duwg8ke/

Hrafnblod. “On “Earth-Based Religions”.” Grennung Hund Heorþ. April 5, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018.https://grennunghund.blog/2017/04/05/on-earth-based-religions/.

Hrafnblod. “Paganism Isn’t Dying; It’s (Finally) Maturing.” Grennung Hund Heorþ. May 21, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018. https://grennunghund.blog/2017/05/21/paganism-isnt-dying-its-finally-maturing/.

Mander, William. “Pantheism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. July 07, 2016. Accessed March 06, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/.

Oosthoek, K. Jan. “Romanticism and nature.” Environmental History Resources. August 1, 2015. Accessed March 03, 2018. https://www.eh-resources.org/romanticism-and-nature/.

Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanes, 47. via the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2008.01.0212%3Asection%3D47

Shneer, James. The Jewish Calendar and the Torah 3rd Edition. S.l.: Lulu.com, 2016.

Roe, Nicholas. English Romantic Writers and the West Country. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

TheLettuceMan. “Paganism as a Religion.” Of Axe and Plough. June 18, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018. https://thelettuceman.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/paganism-as-a-religion/.

York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2005.

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Hellene: A Complex Word and Contemporary Pagan Use

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The word “Hellene” can invoke various thoughts. From the concept of Ancient Greece’s shared identity, to Pagans that remained to the Gods, to Emperor Julian’s vision of Hellenic religion, and to the identity of the modern Greek nation. This article seeks to explore the history of this word, and give thoughts over how the term suitably denotes as an identity for contemporary practitioners of Hellenism.

 

Hellene as a Cultural Identity

There were many terms used to refer to the Greeks. Among them were Achaeans, Danaans, and Argives, which were all used to denote a common Greek identity, but also prominent was Hellene. The word Hellene means “bright,” and may relate to the God, King Helios.

In Hellenic mythology, Deucalion and Pyrrha, survivors of the deluge who became the first King and Queen of northern Greece, bore a son named Hellen, eponymous king of the Hellenes who would come to be the progenitor of the Greek peoples, who himself bore various children that would split off into the different Greek tribes around Phthia (Hesiod, Catalogue of Women, frr. 9 and 10(a)). Thucydides writes that “before the Trojan war there is no indication of any common action in Hellas, nor indeed of the universal prevalence of the name; on the contrary, before the time of Hellen, son of Deucalion, no such appellation existed, but the country went by the names of the different tribes, in particular of the Pelasgian. It was not till Hellen and his sons grew strong in Phthiotis, and were invited as allies into the other cities, that one by one they gradually acquired from the connection the name of Hellenes; though a long time elapsed before that name could fasten itself upon all. The best proof of this is furnished by Homer. Born long after the Trojan War, he nowhere calls all of them by that name, nor indeed any of them except the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original Hellenes: in his poems they are called Danaans, Argives, and Achaeans” (Thucydides & Richard Crawley, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.1.3).

The spread of Hellenic culture went beyond Greece. It spread with Greek colonies across the Mediterranean in lands such as Italy and North Africa, and following the death of Alexander the Great and dawn of the Hellenistic period, Greek culture would spread like wildfire across much of the Near East, where Hellenistic and Hellenized culture interacted and mingled with local cultures throughout the regions and produced new, diverse traditions.

 

Hellene as a Pagan Religious Identity

Through Paul the term Hellene came to mean “non-Hebrew” in the New Testament, (Paul, Acts of the Apostles, 13:48, 15:3 and 7:12, Galatians 3:28) and was thus subsequently spurned and abandoned by Greek Christians, who preferred to differentiate people according to religion than culture. The word Hellene thus developed to assume a religious significance around the 2nd-3rd centuries ACE. The Christian apologist Aristeides picked out the Hellenes as one of the representative Pagan peoples of the world alongside Egyptians, (Aristeides, Apology) and later writer Clement of Alexandria wrote that all Pagans were identified as Hellenes. (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 6, 5, 41) By the 4th century ACE, Greek Christians took to identifying themselves as “Romaioi” (i.e., Roman, Byzantine) instead (Howatson 1989, 264), rejecting the cultural force of Hellenism and classifying Hellenes as a distinct people with a separate identity (Malatras 2011, 425-427).

This definition was taken and held by some Graeco-Roman Pagans who continued to uphold the religious and cultural identity of ancient Greece, the most prominent of which was Emperor Julian (r. 361-363 ACE) who eagerly claimed the term. Julian defined the term more articulately, giving the name of Hellenism to his traditional Graeco-Roman religion and coining the term Hellene as a practitioner of Hellenism (Flavius Iulianus Claudius 1962, I 71) (Flavius Iulianus Claudius 1962, I 319) (Flavius Iulianus Claudius 1962, III 419). This notion was generally accepted, and Hellene became synonymous with practitioners of traditional Graeco-Roman cultus well into the Christian era. Emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) in his Corpus Juris Civilis would later introduce two new statutes that decreed the destruction of Hellenism, even within private life. Procopius writes of this, stating that “he [Justinian] turned the persecution against the ‘Greeks’, [Hellenes] torturing their bodies and looting their property. Many of these decided to assume for appearance’ sake the name of Christian in order to avert the immediate threat; but it was not long before they were for the most part caught at their libations and sacrifices” (Procopius 1935, 137-141). Late Byzantine History of Emperors describes the devout Pagan, Emperor Dicoletian, as “Roman Emperor, Hellene and idolater” (Iadevaia 2005, 9). This identity of Hellene meaning Graeco-Roman polytheist continued into the reign of the much later Constantine VII (r. 913-959 ACE), who in his De Administrando Imperio makes explicit reference to the last public Hellenes, the Maniots (Greenhalgh & Eliopoulos 1985, 22), in such a manner:

“Be it known that the inhabitants of Castle Maina are not from the race of aforesaid Slavs (Melingoi and Ezeritai dwelling on the Taygetus) but from the older Romaioi, who up to the present time are termed Hellenes by the local inhabitants on account of their being in olden times idolaters and worshippers of idols like the ancient Greeks, and who were baptized and became Christians in the reign of the glorious Basil. The place in which they live is waterless and inaccessible, but has olives from which they gain some consolation.”

 

Christianization of Hellene & Modern Greece

The Christianization of the Hellenic identity is thought to have had hints in the 11th century among minor educated circles in the Byzantine Empire. However, it became more prevalent following the Fall of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, though still minor. Small circles of the elite used the term “Hellene” as a self-identifying term in the Empire of Nicaea (Page 2008, 127) (Kaplanis 2014, 91-92). However, once the Byzantines retook Constantinople in 1261 ACE, Romaioi returned to being the standard self-description for Greeks (Kaplanis 2014, 92) and Hellene resumed meaning Pagan. In the 15th century, the philosopher Gemistos Plethon took on the term Hellene, and wished to bring back Hellenism as the state religion of the Byzantine Empire (Kalpanis 2014, 92), and later when the Ottomans introduced the millet system, they would use the term Rumlar, derived from Romaioi, rather than Hellene, and apply it to all members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, regardless of their ethnic origin or spoken language (Mazower 2002, 105–107).

The term Hellene was finally seized by the Greek Christian nationalist movement in the 19th century, where the term was “Christianized” and used to refer to the people inhabiting the Greek Orthodox state. However, many Greek Christian populations, especially those outside the recently formed Greek nation, continued to call themselves Romaioi into the 20th century. Peter Charanis, who was born on Lemnos in 1908 and would later become a professor at Rutgers University on Byzantine history, recounts that when the island was seized from the Ottomans by the Greek state in 1912, Greek soldiers were assigned to each village and stationed themselves in their public squares. Some of the island children ran to find how Greek soldiers looked. “What are you looking at?’” asked one of the soldiers. ‘‘At Hellenes,’’ the children retorted. ‘‘Are you not Hellenes yourselves?’’ the soldiers inquired. ‘‘No, we are Romans,’’ the children answered (Kaldellis 2007, 42–43).

 

Hellene and Hellenism Today

In more recent times, with the resurrection of Hellenism as a religion in contemporary times, the term Hellene has often been reclaimed as a religious self-identity by practitioners of Hellenism. This sometimes leads to Greek Christians becoming outraged, often claiming that this usage of the term is offensive or insensitive because it can cause confusion and conflation with the contemporary Christian Greek culture. However, the usage of Hellene as identifying term for Graeco-Roman polytheists has far predated that of the contemporary nation by almost two thousand years. For non-Greeks, the usage of the term Hellene merely applies as a religious self-identity of a practitioner rather than a claim of descendance, in much of the same way that the term Christian shouldn’t be inferred to mean a literal descendant of Christ. For Greeks who follow Hellenism, however, it means so much more, tying deeply into what it means to fundamentally be Greek.

To object to this usage by pushing a narrative that times change is itself insensitive to followers of Hellenism. Not only did the term Hellene and Hellenism predate the modern Christian Greek state, but the traditionally Christian Greek culture, which champions itself as heirs to the Byzantines and Orthodox Christianity more than anything from Antiquity asides from lipservice, was, and is, actively hostile to ancient Greek culture, its religion of Hellenism, and its contemporary practitioners who identify with a Greece before Christianity. After all, the modern Greek state recognizes the Eastern Orthodox Church as its state religion and has denied Hellenism a right to be recognized as a known religion for much of history up until last year, and even then without recognition as a religious statutory body. Christians have taken a term which Hellenic polytheists have identified with for over two millennia and assigned it for themselves, and while it is great that the Greek people move back towards their ancient identity, it shouldn’t come at the cost of denying practitioners of that ancient identity’s traditional religion.

 

Bibliography

“DEUCALION (Deukalion) – Hero of the Great Deluge of Greek Mythology.” Theoi Project. Accessed February 17, 2018. http://www.theoi.com/Heros/Deukalion.html.

Greenhalgh, P. A. L.; Eliopoulos, Edward (1985). Deep into Mani: Journey to the Southern Tip of Greece. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-13524-2.

Howatson, M.C. (1989). The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kaldellis, Anthony. Hellenism in Byzantium: The Transformations of Greek Identity and the Reception of the Classical Tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Kaplanis, Tassos (2014). “Antique Names and Self-Identification: Hellenes, Graikoi, and Romaioi from Late Byzantium to the Greek Nation-State”. In Tziovas, Dimitris. Re-imagining the Past: Antiquity and Modern Greek Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 81–97.

Malatras, Christos (2011). “The Making of an Ethnic Group: The Romaioi in 12th–13th Century”. In K. A. Dimadis. https://www.academia.edu/1999944/The_making_of_an_ethnic_group_the_Romaioi_in_12th-13th_century

Page, Gill (2008). Being Byzantine: Greek Identity Before the Ottomans, 1200–1420. Cambridge University Press.

Procopius. The Anecdota or Secret History. Translated by H. B. Dewing. Loeb Classical Library 290. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935

Thucydides. The history of the Peloponnesian War. Translated by Richard Crawley. Overland Park (Kan.): Digireads.com Publishing, 2009.

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